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Weekend in Preview: Feb. 29

UCLA softball gathers together during a game.(Renee Rubanowitz/Daily Bruin)

By Elise Oliver, Mika McCaffrey, Felicia Keller, and Sabrina Baker

Feb. 29, 2024 2:00 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 29 at 10:59 p.m.

Softball
Felicia Keller, assistant Sports editor

The Bruins will take on their final tournament of the regular season in Fullerton.

No. 19 UCLA softball (7-5) will begin the Judi Garman Classic against Michigan (10-5) and No. 15 Florida (15-2) on Friday. The rest of the weekend, it will face Weber State (8-7), DePaul (3-11) and San Jose State (5-4).

Michigan and Florida played each other earlier in the season to a 10-inning, 2-1 Michigan win. The Gators have won 13 of their 15 via the run rule.

Sophomore utility Megan Grant said the team is expecting to see a lot of variety in pitching across the weekend.

“We’re going to be seeing a good amount of everything,” Grant said. “In terms of rise balls, in terms of drops, anything really goes, so we’re just working on also hunting as well, just taking what we can get.”

The weekend marks the end of a four-weekend stretch of tournaments for the Bruins and the last games before conference play begins.

For the densest part of the Bruins’ schedule, senior utility Thessa Malau’ulu said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez prepared the team for the storm of tournament play before it began.

Inouye-Perez added that her main goal for these weekends has been for the Bruins to get better every weekend.

“We know that we weren’t our best the first weekend,” Inouye-Perez said. “We were better, but again we’re continuing to improve, and that’s all things that I love to see.”

First pitch for UCLA will come at noon Friday against Michigan.

Graduate student Devon Newberry sets the ball for her partner to strike. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Graduate student Devon Newberry sets the ball for her partner to strike. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Beach volleyball
Sabrina Baker, Daily Bruin staff

The Bruins have returned to the top as they prepare for battle.

No. 1 UCLA beach volleyball (4-3) will take on the Battle for LA from Friday to Saturday at home at Mapes Beach. The Bruins are coming off their first tournament and first win of the season, where they defeated then-No. 1 USC (4-2) to claim the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic championship.

Graduate student Devon Newberry said she’s always been taught that the rankings don’t mean anything.

“As awesome as it was to win Hawaii, we still have so much work to do,” Newberry said. “The rankings that come out this week don’t matter. It’s going to be who’s on the end at NCAAs.”

The Battle for LA is one of two events that the Bruins will host this season.

Newberry said even with the limited number of home events, she feels the home court advantage.

“It gives us this confidence knowing that you’ve been practicing there for weeks and months and years,” Newberry said. “Having your family and friends be able to come out so easily gives us the confidence.”

The Battle for LA will be split between Mapes Beach at UCLA, Merle Norman Stadium at USC and the beach volleyball courts at LMU. The tournament will consist of nine teams, including four top-10 teams outside of UCLA: No. 3 USC, No. 5 LMU (2-3), No. 8 California (4-0) and No. 9 Long Beach State (2-0).

The Bruins went 4-0 at the tournament last year, sweeping each opponent in the process.

Although Newberry was not in the lineup last year due to injury, she said she is grateful for how far she’s come in her recovery.

“I keep having moments where I look back to a year ago and see where I was,” Newberry said. “The fact that I am able to compete on our home courts again, in my last year, is such a special feeling, especially with this team.”

(Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)
Sophomore Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer swings to hit a forehand. (Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)

Women’s tennis
Elise Oliver, Daily Bruin contributor

A twofold challenge looms as the Bruins prepare to face a familiar foe and a ranked rival on Friday.

UCLA women’s tennis (4-3) will take the courts against No. 8 USC (7-3) at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, continuing its homestand after back-to-back wins against Loyola Marymount and Cal State Fullerton.

Besides an early season victory against then-No. 6 Texas, the Bruins have struggled against ranked opponents. Nevertheless, coach Stella Sampras Webster said her team is prepared to rise to the occasion and prove themselves.

“There’s so much room for this team to grow,” Sampras Webster said. “We’re going to get better and better throughout the season, and I’m excited to get them out competing again.”

The Bruins have won six of their last seven matchups against the Trojans, notching victories in both matchups last season. In its most recent face-off in April 2023, UCLA narrowly walked away with a 4-3 victory.

In that latest match, then-freshman Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer teamed up with then-freshman Tian Fangran in doubles, quickly securing a win. Despite failing to secure a singles point, Lutkemeyer – who has won six of her seven decisions this season – said her continued experience has readied her for another battle with USC.

“The college atmosphere is so different,” Lutkemeyer said. “There’s so much more energy compared to individual tournaments and events. Having the experience of more dual matches under my belt has really helped.”

Sampras Webster said a clash against USC will prepare her team to enter conference play.

“Everyone’s ready to play,” Sampras Webster said. “(We’re ready to) get tested, get challenged and compete.”

First serve between the Bruins and the Trojans is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday at the LATC.

(Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)
UCLA women’s water polo junior attacker Molly Renner pulls the ball back in preparation for a shot.(Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women’s water polo
Mika McCaffrey, Daily Bruin contributor

The Bruins are headed into a stretch of conference play beginning in Bloomington, Indiana.

No. 1 UCLA women’s water polo (14-0, 1-0 MPSF) will face off against No. 13 Indiana (14-2) on Saturday in its second conference game of the season.

The Bruins played in their last regular season tournament last weekend and will now begin a string of seven matches.

Junior attacker Molly Renner – who scored a season high of three goals against Cal State Fullerton on Friday – said the change in-game type will change their preparation to be more fast-paced.

“When we’re playing a weekend long tournament, we usually focus on just tapering our bodies and getting our bodies right,” Renner said. “When we play in a singular game, it’s more go time and we want to get all of our energy out in the week to see how we’ll perform with our low energy, just to build good habits when we’re tired.”

The Bruins are the only D1 team left with an undefeated seasonal record. Last weekend, UCLA beat both No. 2 Hawaii and No. 4 Stanford to secure its tournament victory.

Renner said last weekend shifted her perspective moving forward.

“It (the tournament victory) really made me realize how much work we have to put in, if we want to continue on this path,” Renner said. “It doesn’t define us so we really have to work hard to continue to build our relationships within the team and just our overall skills.”

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Elise Oliver
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Sabrina Baker | Sports contributor
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
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